We are now in Holy Week, the high point of the Church’s year. On Holy Thursday, we will receive, as if for the first time, the gift of Jesus’ Body and Blood, given at the Last Supper. On Good Friday, we will kiss the Cross, the instrument of our salvation. On Holy Saturday, we will meditate by His tomb, when He descended among the dead. We will keep vigil for His Resurrection. And on Easter, we will celebrate with triumphant joy the victory of life that came with His resurrection. Holy Week is also the center of our commitment to defend the sanctity of life. Holy Week is all about how life conquers death, and how human beings are raised to the heights of heaven. May it deepen our pro-life commitment.
We have begun Holy Week, when the Church enters more deeply into meditation on the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
He endured this in order to redeem human life. Life was sacred because He made it, and by His Passion and Resurrection it is even more sacred because it is now raised to the heights of heaven with Him. In the book of Revelation, the Risen Christ declares, “To the victor I will give the right to sit with Me on my throne.” St. Paul likewise declares, “If we hold out until the end, we shall reign with Him.” The destiny of the human person, therefore, is the heights of heaven — and that is yet another reason why Christians oppose abortion, which throws that life in the garbage.
At the end of February I was privileged to be welcomed at the Vatican as a new member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Established in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, this body has “the specific task to study and provide information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion and protection of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality.”
In our General Assembly meeting this year, we addressed in depth the theme of post-abortion healing. Two other members of our Priests for Life team were also invited: Janet Morana, co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, and Dr. Theresa Burke, who founded Rachel’s Vineyard.
The group met with Pope Benedict, who said in his address, “It is necessary to provide the necessary help to women who sadly have already taken recourse to abortion, and who now experience all its moral and existential tragedy. There are many initiatives, at the diocesan level or through individual volunteer entities, which offer psychological and spiritual support for a complete human recovery. The solidarity of the Christian community cannot give up this type of co-responsibility.”
He also had strong words about the responsibilities of doctors:
“Doctors cannot fail to defend against the deception of the conscience of many women who think they will find in abortion the solution to family, economic, social difficulties or to the problems of health of their children. Especially in this last situation, the woman is convinced, often by the doctors themselves, that abortion represents not only a licit moral choice, but that in addition it is a necessary “therapeutic” act”.
He also said doctors are to “Continue affirming that abortion does not resolve anything, but that it kills the child, destroys the woman and blinds the conscience of the child’s father, often ruining family life.”
The Pope expanded on the idea of fathers by saying:
“It would be useful to focus attention on the fathers of the children, who often abandon pregnant women. It is the duty of the moral conscience to discern good from evil in the different situations of existence.”
While men can’t have abortions, they do commit the sin of abortion. The “abandonment” of which the Pope speaks often consists in the man saying it is the woman’s choice. This makes her feel alone and desperate, and increases the temptation to abort. The man, instead, is called to stand with the woman and the baby and say, “we can do the right thing.”
Finally, the Pope reminded us all that “It is necessary that the whole of society defend the right to life of the conceived and the true good of the woman, who never, under any circumstance, will be fulfilled in the choice of abortion.”
As one of many entities of the Vatican – essentially a bioethics council for the Pope and the Church — the Academy for Life represents a key concern of the Church. You can follow its activities and publications at www.AcademiaVita.org.
I received the following email from someone who visited the Priests for Life website and saw the pictures of aborted babies. She wrote:
“I just wanted to say that I accidentally viewed your web site. Let me tell you that I had once strongly believed in pro-choice, but after reviewing this website, I am all for Pro-Life. I just recently found out that I am 5wks pregnant….I can not imagine me doing this to my baby. I had an abortion about 2yrs. ago and that was the hardest decision I had to make. I did not want to do it. I cried and mourned for my child for a long time…”
Invite others to view these images at priestsforlife.org. You may email and print them. Nothing is more effective to end abortion.
In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that when Jesus died, there was an earthquake. In the Old Testament Scriptures, the earthquake was one of the signs of the Day of the Lord, when God’s power and glory and presence would be manifested in human history. This is what happened at the death of Christ, because at that moment, death itself was done away with. The Lord went among the dead to rescue them and to open for them – and for us – the kingdom of life. Things change at that point for human history and the destiny of the human family, and it is the foundation of who we are as a pro-life people. Our stand against abortion is not just political. It is rooted in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Blessed Margaret of Castello was beatified on Oct. 19, 1609. She was born to a wealthy family, and when they saw that she was hunchback, dwarf, blind and lame, they were ashamed of her and kept her hidden from view. Eventually, to make sure nobody saw her condition, the family kept her enclosed in a prison-like cell. One day they took her to a Franciscan Shrine, but then abandoned her there.
Despite her miseries, Margaret was serene, cheerful and courageous. She found strength in prayer, in daily Mass, in Holy Communion, and eventually became a sister of the order of St. Dominic. She has become an inspiration to those who are discouraged and tempted to self-pity. Her story likewise provides a good examination of conscience. If we were around at the time of Blessed Margaret and knew that her family was keeping her in a cell, would we have spoken up for her?
Blessed Margaret is the Patron Saint of the Unwanted.
Prayer in Honor of Blessed Margaret of Castello:
Your care extends to every human person,
No matter what afflictions they suffer,
And you uphold the dignity of every human life,
Regardless of the false ways that the world may calculate its value.
You gave us Blessed Margaret of Castello as a sign and a challenge.
You permitted your glory to shine through her human weakness,
And called those around her to love her
Despite her physical limitations.
Forgive us when we fail to defend the least among us.
Through the intercession of Blessed Margaret,
Give us grace to speak up for the outcast
and to welcome those who are rejected.
When this brief life is over,
Grant that we who have welcomed all our brothers and sisters,
May be welcomed by you into the life that never ends.
We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We are at the start of the Presidential election cycle. Various candidates have begun to declare their intentions to form exploratory committees, to assess whether they have the resources and support to run for President. Various organizations are evaluating which potential candidates their members support. Various events are being planned in which those who want to run can begin debating each other.
On Election Day, many people complain that they don’t like any of the choices. That’s why it is good that these races begin early. Now is the time to encourage the best possible candidates to get into the race, rather than to say it’s too early and then complain later. And the Church indicates that the candidate’s readiness to serve the human person above all else, is the first thing we should look at.
Jesus Christ can change us and can change our world. We are people of hope. When Jesus visited Martha and Mary to console them over the death of their brother Lazarus, even though He had been in the tomb for four days, the sisters said to Jesus, “Even now, I know that God will give You whatever You ask Him.” Even now. That should be our theme as we fight the evil of abortion. Some will say it has gone on so long it cannot be changed. Others will voice the objection that was raised when Jesus ordered Lazarus’ grave opened: there will be a stench. But despite the culture of death, we are called to hope in the God Who has not changed, and in His power to defeat abortion. Even now.
Fr. Pavone called upon pro-life activists to continue to insist, in creative ways, that the government stop funding the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. He issued the following statement:
“The defunding of Planned Parenthood was not included in the budget deal reached this weekend by Congress. At the same time, this is not a ‘one chance only’ proposition. Cutting off funds from Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry overall is an imperative that must be brought up again and again, and pursued through various legislative proposals not only on the federal level but also in the states. Moreover, activists should continue to target corporate funding of Planned Parenthood.”
“The separate vote in the Senate this week on this issue should be carefully scored and used as an election issue next year. Moreover, this debate gives all of us the opportunity to consider again how important the abortion issue is. If government can take away your life, it can take away your money, too – and everything else besides. All our rights depend on the right to life. Government should neither be funding nor permitting in any way the planned, advertised killing of innocent children.”
Lent is a time to pray for the catechumens of the Church – that is, those who are preparing to be baptized at Easter. They are preparing to accept the life of the Risen Christ into their souls and bodies. They are preparing to leave their sins in the tomb and rise to newness of life. When they are baptized at the Easter Vigil, the rest of us will renew the vows of our baptism. In these vows, we reject the empty promises of the devil. One of those empty promises is abortion. How easily people are deceived that the choice of death somehow solves a problem. Even more deceptive is the idea that another person’s abortion, though wrong, is none of our business. Whenever someone’s choice destroys someone else’s life, that’s everyone’s business. Let’s renew our resolve to speak up for the children.